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Evangeline Lilly Almost Quit Acting After Lost - How Real Steel Convinced Her to Come Back
Evangeline Lilly was ready to give up acting, until Real Steel and director Shawn Levy came along.
In the 2000s, Evangeline Lilly was one of the brightest rising stars in pop culture, thanks to the massive success of Lost, the legendary sci-fi series in which she served as one of the key players throughout its six-season run. As Kate Austen on the show, Lilly retained a high degree of visibility throughout Lost's rise as the most talked-about show in the world, but the stardom wasn't always fun. In fact, Lilly was ready to retire from acting... until Real Steel came along.
Based on a short story by the great Richard Matheson, Real Steel –– now streaming on SYFY for your viewing pleasure –– is a thoroughly entertaining combination of sci-fi thriller and sports drama about a down-on-his-luck former boxer (Hugh Jackman) and his son (Dakota Goyo), who embark on a new fighting streak with the help of a plucky, tough-as-nails robot, competing in a futuristic robot fighting league against behemoth machines. It's like sci-fi Rocky, and while the premise might seem a little thin at first, director Shawn Levy and a talented cast and crew are able to turn it into a genuinely thrilling, at times even moving, dramedy.
Lilly has a key supporting role in the film as a boxing gym owner who steps in to help Jackman's character out, bonding with his son in the process. And it turns out that after Lost, that was exactly the role she needed. Back in 2021, she told Entertainment Weekly that the TV grind of being a Lost star was really beginning to get to her. Then Levy came along with an offer.
How Real Steel Made Evangeline Lilly Want to Keep Acting
"When Lost was over, I was going to wash my hands of acting and move on with a quiet life," Lilly said. "And Shawn was like, 'Okay, you can do that, you can retire. But first, there's just this little movie that I'm doing with Hugh Jackman, and you have to be with us.' It was you [Levy] sitting there across from me in a chair, and you just were all heart. It was the first time I felt really like my ideas were being heard. I would come to a scene and say, 'Here's what I'm thinking. I think this is how I want to play it.' I was used to the grind of television where there isn't a lot of time for that, and Shawn always made time."
By the end of its run, Lost was very much a writers' show, driven by plot more than character as fan discussions hinged on secrets, twists, and mysteries. Lilly, like her co-stars, had to be along for that ride, and as many actors who've done lengthy TV runs can attest, it was not always pleasant. Thankfully for her, Levy came along and kept her going, showing her a different side of the working process than the show that had taken up much of her professional life to that point.
"That was one of the first times I'd experienced what it meant to be a collaborator and not just someone who stands on their mark and reads their lines," Lilly said. "I think you could credit him to a certain degree for the fact that I'm still acting today."